Why Aren’t You Closing More Prospects? Hint: maybe ‘need’ is not the best predictor

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Do you know precisely who in your funnel will buy? During your conversation it seemed like these folks needed your solution, but from your history you know that being in your funnel may not indicate who will buy.

Here are a few questions that will help you consider the baseline criteria that potential prospects must meet before deciding to buy something:

  • Do you know at what stage in the Change Management cycle your prospects are? Have they finished trialing their workarounds?
  • Are the full set of stakeholders (yes, even Joe in accounting) on board…and have they all bought in to the change?
  • Do they know the risks that your solution would bring to their status quo?

To make a purchase, all the stakeholders, or at least those who will touch the final solution, must buy-in to change. In fact, if the cost/risk of bringing in a new solution is higher than the risk of maintaining the current problem, they won’t buy anything and will maintain their status quo.

RISK A BETTER FACTOR THAN NEED

Since 1987 I’ve trained Buying Facilitation® to about 100,000 sales professionals globally, in all sectors and industries, and at solution price points from $3,000 to $50,000,000 – and I’ve never met a salesperson who knows precisely who will buy. And yet they should.

The sales model continues to use ‘need’ as a factor, falsely believing that if you find someone with a ‘need’ (according to answers to your biased questions), they’re a prospect. But you probably aren’t closing more than 5% so maybe that assumption is incorrect: ‘Risk management’ and the ‘cost of change’ are the issues that must be resolved by potential buyers for them to consider making a purchase. Until they understand these factors they can’t even know their needs.

I know that Dale Carnegie, Neil Rackham, David Sandler (who tried to buy me out in 1993 before he died), and Lori Richardson – the founding fathers and mother of our sales process – all promoted needs-based selling.

But I’m here to tell you that ‘need’ is NOT an indicator of purchasing. Do you need to lose 10 pounds? You’ve got a need to replace some of your foods, exercise more, stop drinking. Have you done that? Nope. What about your need to get organized? Need is not the determinant. And the folks you deem ‘prospects’ most likely aren’t real prospects since 95% of them don’t buy!

Who, then, IS a prospect?

WHO IS A PROSPECT?

Prospects are folks who have:

  1. recognized something wrong, and brought together the full set of stakeholders to fully understand the facts of the problem;
  2. failed to find a workaround to resolve it;
  3. understand and accept the risk of bringing in something new (i.e. disrupt the status quo);
  4. have all agreed to go ‘outside’ to achieve their outcome and know how to integrate the new with the old (and train folks, etc.) with minimum disruption.

In other words, they agree there’s a problem they can’t resolve and accept the risks, the disruption, involved with a purchase. And until they’re ready to make a purchase they’re merely people trying to solve a problem, people who have no interest in your solution.

Think of your own life: if your car is dead when you need to get to work one morning, the first thing you do is call to get the car towed to your mechanic. It’s only if the mechanic says your car is irreparable, or the cost of a fix would be prohibitive, that you start researching new cars. Buying a car is the LAST step you’d take.

SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING

Unfortunately, the sales model, designed for a different era, does not offer the tools to facilitate Buy Side change. Indeed, the sales model ignores this entire – and ubiquitous – Pre-Sales change management process. Yet it’s where 80% of real prospects reside.

As sellers, we’re so focused on selling to need that we forget the costs of bringing in a new solution: How does a new solution affect daily business routines? Pay? How can buyers mitigate their learning or integration curve? Currently people do this on their own, very slowly.

Sadly for sellers, the time it takes to complete this is the length of the sales cycle. They must do this anyway, with us, or without us. Until now, they’ve done it without us. And this is our competitive edge, not to mention a revenue boost and time saver.

Sales is the second tool in a two-stage decision process, useful once people traverse their 13 steps of change (defined in my book Dirty Little Secrets) AND can’t resolve a problem on their own AND understand the risk/cost of the change AND the stakeholders buy-in to the change. Buying Facilitation® first, THEN sales.

I know sellers aren’t accustomed to thinking this way, believing that ‘indecision’ is causing a ‘stall’. But potential prospects are just taking the time they need to address their internal decision making.

It’s not an idiosyncratic idea, or industry trope: for any buying to occur, people must congruently address their internal change issues and risks to their environment. And by leaving this element out of our sales, we end up trying to find the low hanging fruit – those who have completed their process.

What if sellers had an additional tool kit to first facilitate the change, and then sell to those who are real prospects? Contact me to discuss Buying Facilitation® training for your team. [email protected]

Sharon-Drew Morgen
I'm an original thinker. I wrote the NYT Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 8 other books bridging systemic brain change models with business, for sales, leadership, communications, coaching. I invented Buying Facilitation(R) (Buy Side support), How of Change(tm) (creates neural pathways for habit change), and listening without bias. I coach, train, speak, and consult companies and teams who seek Servant Leader models.

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